A Primer for Pinehurst: 10 Questions with President Tom Pashley
As part of XOJET’s recently launched partnership with Pinehurst Resort, Preferred and Elite Access members enjoy exclusive benefits at one of the world’s most historic and iconic golf destinations, widely known as the Cradle of American Golf. Truly a bucket list experience for professionals and amateurs alike, Pinehurst is the ultimate golfer’s getaway: a historic resort with 3 traditional hotels and 9 world-class 18-hole courses, including Donald Ross’s legendary Pinehurst No. 2, home of 3 U.S. Opens and 100+ years of iconic golfing moments.
To give you a taste of this time-honored destination before teeing off, XOJET spoke with Pinehurst’s President, Tom Pashley, to get an insider’s perspective on all things Pinehurst. From unforgettable course memories to his personal 3-day itinerary, here’s what you need to know before walking in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.
In a country filled with storied golf courses, how did Pinehurst become known as the Cradle of American golf?
Pinehurst wasn’t the first course in the country but it was the first genuine golf resort in the country. Professionals and amateurs came to Pinehurst in the early 1900s and saw a completely different style of golf and architecture. They liked it so much that they brought the Pinehurst style, inspired by Donald Ross, back to their own towns.
Golf wasn’t born here, but it was nurtured here.
The history of Pinehurst is rich with iconic memories and occasions. Which ones have most come to define the resort?
There’s a bronze statue of Payne Stewart that sits behind the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2. It captures the singular moment in time when Payne, against the odds, makes an 15-foot putt on the final hole to win the 1999 U.S. Open. His fist is in the air to celebrate and it’s certainly one of the most iconic memories from Pinehurst. His tragic passing just a few months later makes the memory even more significant, considering it was one of his last big moments in the game of golf. Getting your picture taken with Payne is definitely one of the highlights for visitors of Pinehurst.
Another neat bookend to that memory came at the 2014 U.S. Open, also hosted here at Pinehurst. The USGA awarded Payne Stewart with the Bob Jones award, their highest honor, and Payne’s family—his wife Tracey and daughter Chelsea—were on hand to accept the award. Later that evening, there was a small gathering of the Stewart family behind the 18th green of No. 2, and Tracey cradled his face in her hands and kissed him on the cheek. It was a moment that not many people saw but it was one of my highlights from the 2014 U.S. Open.
Additionally, what’s neat about Pinehurst is that memories of a lifetime continue to be made every single day. Having hosted 3 U.S. Opens within the space of 25 years, expectations for golfers who come to Pinehurst are now exceptionally high. So the way we look at it is, it’s someone’s U.S. Open every day at Pinehurst. Everything we do, every day, is meant to deliver on that promise.
Which holes will guests most recognize on Pinehurst No. 2? What are the keys to playing the course well?
The greens of the third and fifth hole are only separated by about 25 yards, and both are within direct view of Donald Ross’ original house. Many consider the fifth hole one of the most difficult holes in golf; it has a classic Donald Ross, turtleback, crowned green sloped from right to left. Oftentimes, people will find themselves needing a sand wedge after putting into one of the greenside bunkers—hence the saying, “You were just ‘Ross-ed.” Looking to your right at Donald Ross’ house, you get the sense that he spent an inordinate amount of time out there—in his backyard—to tweak the green until he had it just the way he wanted it. Any player will be proud to walk off that hole with a par, and if not, chances are they got Ross-ed. It’s infamous around here.
To succeed on Pinehurst No. 2, you don’t need to be exceptionally accurate off the tee. The fairways are fairly wide compared to other U.S. Open courses, so you can afford to be a bit aggressive with your drive. If you do find yourself off the fairway, the sandy natural areas are open enough that, at least half the time, you’ll get a good lie and you’ll have an opportunity to go for an offensive shot—as opposed to just laying it back onto the fairway.
Because of this flexibility off the tee, the course is all about choice and decision-making. If you’re unsuccessful hitting the greens, you need to have an exceptional short game. You’re posed with some challenges that you won’t find at most other courses. Here you have these crowned greens—Ross masterpieces—and you’re much better off putting onto the green as opposed to using a lob wedge. If you can master the putter from off the green, even as far as ten yards off the green, you’re in great shape.
What are some hallmarks of the other world-class courses at Pinehurst?
Pinehurst No. 3 is an often-underappreciated golf course. It’s a Donald Ross original and its greens are very similar to No 2, so if you’re planning on playing No. 2, No. 3 is a great tune up. It’s a shorter course—in the 5,200-yard range—but it has a lot of character and you’ll really immerse yourself in what makes Pinehurst so special.
After No. 2, my second-favorite course is Pinehurst No. 8. It sits on the site of the former Pinehurst Gun Club, where Annie Oakley was the professional for a number of years. It’s a wonderful Tom Fazio course—opened in 1995 to celebrate 100 years of Pinehurst—and even though it’s only 5 minutes from the Carolina Hotel, it feels like you’ve been transported to the countryside. An Audubon Signature course with no surrounding homes, it’s a beautiful piece of land and one of the most peaceful places you could play.
What’s neat about Pinehurst is, it really allows you to walk down golf architecture history. You can experience Donald Ross originals on courses 1, 2, and 3. You can play course 5, which is an Ellis Maples course that was built in the 50s, and No. 6, built in the 70s by Tom Fazio. No. 7 is a Rees Jones course built in the 80s, and No. 8 is Tom Fazio from the 90s. There are very distinct elements that go along with every era of golf course design and it’s incredible to have such variety.
What’s new at Pinehurst Resort in 2018?
The big story right now, which we’re very excited about, is Gil Hanse’s redesign of Pinehurst No. 4. No. 4 was a Donald Ross original and, based on some of his writings, he felt that it occupied some of the best land at Pinehurst. The course opened in 1919, but it closed during the Depression and lost some of its Ross identity as other designers tweaked it over the years. Fazio completely redesigned 4 in 1999, but we wanted to bring in another architect, so we chose Gil Hanse.
The course is going to open in the fall, October of 2018, and it’s going to be a wonderful complement to No. 2. It has more elevation change—to make it a bit more visually dramatic—and Hanse is going to reflect the natural sand hills style of No. 2. It essentially sits on the same land as No. 2 so we wanted the playing experience to feel similar. Gil Hanse does wonderful original work but he also does incredible work in restorations of historic golf courses. He’s living in the area for the next 6 months and we can’t wait to see what he does. We really think that guests are going to enjoy this golf course.
What accommodation options do guests have at Pinehurst Resort?
There are three distinct hotels at Pinehurst. The original, built in 1895, is The Holly Inn. Right in the middle of the Village of Pinehurst, it’s a mid-size hotel with 82 guestrooms, a wonderful restaurant called the 1895 Grill, and a great Irish pub called The Tavern. It gives guests a real intimacy that is unique.
The flagship property of Pinehurst is the Carolina Hotel, built in 1901 due to the overwhelming demand. The beautiful white building, with its distinct copper roof, creates an iconic visual that many people associate with Pinehurst. Every morning, the Carolina Hotel dining room serves what most consider the best breakfast in golf. If you’re only going have one meal at the resort per day, make sure this is the one.
The Manor Inn is our third hotel and it’s an intimate 40-room hotel built in the mid 1920s. We consider it a sportsman’s lodge and, while it’s more of a relaxed atmosphere, its architecture is still inspired by our classic Southern style.
Besides our three hotels, one of the unique benefits of the partnership with XOJET is the opportunity to stay at Donald Ross’ house, which we’ve recently acquired and are in the middle of updating. It will open this fall, at the same time as No. 4, and it’s an incredibly special opportunity.
What else should guests know before teeing off?
Pinehurst is known for its history, tradition, and scale, but what we’re in the middle of right now—the redesign of No. 4, the opening of our par-3 course The Cradle, a new bar and restaurant called The Deuce, a new microbrewery—shows that we have one eye on the past but also one on the future. We’re taking aggressive steps to make sure we stay as relevant with the next generation of golfers as we are with the previous.
That’s the surprise for a lot of golfers right now. Pinehurst is not just this historic time capsule; we’re always innovating and evolving. People who haven’t been here in the past decade will appreciate what remains the same—the level of hospitality, the piano music in the Carolina Hotel dining room for breakfast, the rocking chairs on the verandah—but will also be astonished by how much has changed. We’re not sitting still and resting on our laurels. We’re actively preparing for a vibrant future.
What would your personal itinerary look like at Pinehurst?
On the day of arrival, I would go for an afternoon round at Pinehurst No. 3 to prepare my game for the unique challenges of Pinehurst. Here you can get accustomed to putting up to our crowned greens, and have a little bit of fun before the real test begins.
The next day I would start out on No. 2 to fully immerse myself in the history of Pinehurst and begin to appreciate what makes it so special. When you’re walking with a caddie, they are going to be telling you all the great stories that have happened on each hole of the golf course—like John Daly missing a green in the 1999 U.S. Open and scoring an 11.
That afternoon, I would go out to No. 8 and enjoy another idyllic experience. Since I’ll have already played 18 in the morning, maybe I’d decide to ride in the afternoon. And if I’m up for it, maybe spend some time at the Pinehurst Brewery, which will be opening this summer.
The next day I would give myself the morning to sleep in and choose to only play 18 holes at Gil Hanse’s new No. 4. In the afternoon, and pretty much every afternoon if daylight permits, I would play The Cradle. It’s a fun 9-hole course with holes that range from 40 yards to 125 yards. You can play it in less than an hour and it sits right around the Pinehurst Clubhouse.
If you can find a way to squeeze it in, I always recommend guests to play No. 2 a second time. You learn so much the first time around—like, you can’t be short on this green, or you can’t miss this hole to the right. Whatever you learn from the first round, chances are you’ll walk off the 18th hole and wish you could try it again. You really begin to appreciate the work that Donald Ross did back in 1907 when he built the golf course.
How do XOJET and Pinehurst align in their philosophies?
XOJET provides unlimited flexibility and possibilities to customers. As the largest golf resort in North America, Pinehurst offers an unmatched range of golf experiences, from Donald Ross’ masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2, to Tom Fazio’s No. 8, designed to celebrate 100 years of Pinehurst golf, to our 789-yard 9-hole short course, The Cradle. The XOJET customer expects the best and Pinehurst works hard to exceed expectations.
How can XOJET and Pinehurst help each other provide a more seamless customer experience?
Communication and collaboration are the keys. Working in the hospitality industry is incredibly rewarding. Each day presents multiple opportunities to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. We’re excited to partner with XOJET and look forward to the opportunity to deliver Pinehurst hospitality to your clientele. I’m certain that by working together, with a focus on unique experiences, we’ll be able to create amazing lifetime memories for our guests.
*All golf photos courtesy of Pinehurst Resort.